AUSSIE VALUES WEEK PAYS OFF FOR PM

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s week starts off on a high note, with Newspoll in The Australian narrowing the lead Labor has over the Coalition to 52-48 two-party preferred. A week of sprouting “Aussie values” and a crackdown on 457 visas appears to have paid in the polling, at least.

The Greens have flagged, however, that the proposed axing/not-an-axing of 457 visas will face a hurdle in Parliament. The Fairfax papers today report that Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young will seek crossbench support to establish a committee to look at the economic impact the proposed changes to Australia’s visa scheme will have.

It will be interesting to see how the Newspoll is greeted by former prime minister Tony Abbott in his weekly slot on Ray Hadley’s show later today. Keen observers had noted that Abbott’s interventions in the politics of the day tend to be scheduled around Newspoll, but perhaps he will be more focused on the boxing match with Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm that was apparently on without Abbott knowing about it, according to the former PM.

NO DOLE WORK, NO JOB INTERVIEW, NO DOLE

Another week, another welfare crackdown. The Daily Telegraph reports that Human Services Minister Alan Tudge  plans in the budget to cut the dole payments for people who refuse to work for the dole and refuse to turn up for job interviews. The paper says it has data that 33,000 people told Centrelink they couldn’t make an interview on 100,000 occasions last year with no excuse given, but only 1% of those faced a penalty for doing so.

Will that keep the polling going in the right direction? The Australian Financial Review today has a poll that shows the issues voters most care about ahead of the budget in May are voters are Medicare funding, economic growth, welfare and education and housing affordability.

HE REALLY SAID THAT

When Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was asked to explain why Papua New Guinea police contradict claim that violence in the Manus Island detention centre on Good Friday was spurred by concern about a child who was brought into the centre by detainees, Dutton told Insiders he had the real version, not the “Twitter” version, of the facts.

“So let me give you the facts. The fact is that as people would understand, Manus Island is home not only to the regional processing centre but also to the naval base there as well. The point that I was making and certainly the clear advice that I received was that there had been a ramping up in terms of the mood on the ground over a period of time which included a sexual assault, to which you’ve made no reference, separate to any incident that we’re talking about here.”

Dutton has yet to offer any evidence to back up the apparent facts he has, and he would not commit to releasing the CCTV footage of the incident.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

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Trade Minister Steve Ciobo chases Hong Kong free trade agreement.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Brisbane: Attorney-General George Brandis will announce a backflip on the government’s intention to cut funding for legal services.

Sydney: US Vice President Mike Pence departs Australia after a three-day visit.

Darwin: The NT Royal Commission into juvenile justice and child protection continues hearings.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Newspoll: Coalition must break cycle or it’ll break them — David Crowe (The Australian $): “If Turnbull’s rhetoric was designed to win back Coalition voters who had drifted to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, it clearly failed.”

Of course North Korea wants nukes. We should learn to live with it — Tom Switzer (Sydney Morning Herald): “We are told that regime change is an option in dealing with the North Korean menace. But if there is any hope of discouraging Pyongyang from using nuclear weapons, the West will need to stop threatening regime change and try to reach an accommodation with the Hermit Kingdom.”

More MPs could be caught in disqualification trap — George Williams (The Age): “Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie, a Nationals MP who holds the NSW seat of Lyne, is in a tenuous position given the approach adopted by the High Court”

Trump may fall short but at least he’s not Clinton — Adam Creighton (The Australian $): “The most disappointing development in the Trump administration’s first 100 days is the apparent eclipse of Stephen Bannon, one of the President’s top advisers.”

Either Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull must go — Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun $) “Get rid of Abbott and the government still has Turnbull, the real problem. So one must go to save the Liberals. But it’s not Abbott.”

THE WORLD

Votes are still being counted after the first round of the French presidential elections, but projections indicate far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron will face off in the final vote on May 7. If confirmed, the result would mark the first time in modern French history that neither of the major centre-left or centre-right parties have advanced to the ultimate stage of the process. Macron, a pro-European centrist, has already been endorsed by failed conservative candidate Francois Fillion, who looks likely to finish in third, just ahead of far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon. — The Guardian 

Tensions between North Korea and the United States continue to increase, with the official newspaper of the rogue state’s Workers’ Party declaring North Korea’s military was prepared to strike the US aircraft carrier deployed to the region. North Korea has also taken a third US national into custody as he tried to depart the country. — Reuters

An Italian prosecutor has accused NGOs running rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea of colluding with people smugglers, claiming there is evidence of phone calls between the groups. About 1000 migrants and asylum seekers have drowned this year while attempting to make it safely to Europe, while a further 37,000 have been rescued. — BBC 

WHAT WE’RE READING

The enigma of Assad: how a painfully shy eye doctor turned into a murderous tyrant (Quartz): “The world has reacted with horror to Assad’s brutality, but while his cruelty is nothing new in the region, his transformation is more perplexing. What could possibly have transformed this soft-spoken man, who promised to reform his late father’s heavy-handed dictatorship, into a tyrant so desperate to hold on to power that he would eventually gas his own people to do so?”

After ISIS, smoking openly to feel free (New York Times): “Just over a week after the terror group was flushed out of his hometown, Mr. Saleh was making a visual statement. He wanted people to know that he’s a smoker, a crime that until recently would have earned him 20 lashes.”

Nixon had his “madman theory”. Trump is just a madman (New Republic): “Nixon was a flawed figure, while Trump is a farcical one. Trump is less a twenty-first century Nixon than his absurd doppelganger. Despite his warped personality, Nixon made some substantial, positive, and lasting changes in American foreign policy. So far, Trump is only sowing confusion and disorder.”

In Trump they trust: inside the global web of partners cashing in on the president (Forbes): “Never has an American president taken office with such immense and complicated assets. Nor has one brought along a busload of rich partners who, by dint of previous deals and brand association, stand to reap profits in real time, as the president serves.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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